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Publication > Issue > Articles

N2O emissions from nitric acid plants in CDM and JI projects

Summary

S. Debor, V. Schmidt and Dr M. von Velsen-Zerweck of N.serve Environmental Services GmbH present a summary of a first-of-a-kind comprehensive analysis of N2O baseline emissions and reduction results that have been achieved in nitric acid plants that are taking part in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) of the Kyoto Protocol.

Abstract

Before the existence of the Kyoto Protocol there was no worldwide regulation and monitoring of N2O emissions from the nitric acid industry. All discussions to date with regard to the regulation of the greenhouse gas N2O and appropriate benchmarks have been based on sample measurements, estimates and assumptions rather than data from continuous third party audited monitoring procedures. The success of the nitric acid projects under the CDM and JI mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) changed this situation profoundly.
To date, the market incentives provided by the Kyoto emissions markets has led to 58 registered CDM projects in nitric acid plants that benefit from emissions trading. As a result, innovative and expensive state-of-the-art environmental technology to reduce and to monitor N2O emissions has been introduced to developing countries years ahead of the technology being used in western industrialised countries.

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Harnessing power from plant synergies

Summary

J.R. Ferrer and L. Marzo report on recent process developments to ESPINDESA's nitric acid and ammonium nitrate processes. They include the installation of a power generator linked to the nitric acid compressor train to produces enough energy to operate the nitric acid-ammonium nitrate complex, and improvements to the design of pipe reactors and recirculation vessels for nitric acid neutralisers in ammonium nitrate plants.

Abstract

ESPINDESA designs different types of nitric acid units (mono-pressure plants or dual-pressure plants, optimising either the steam export or the electric power generation) and granulation or prill ammonium nitrate plants equipped with pipe reactor or recirculation neutralisers. Nitric acid-ammonium nitrate complex Ammonium nitrate units are generally linked to their corresponding nitric acid unit and the design of the complex must optimise the synergies between both units and outside battery limits (OSBL) to maximise their efficiency. When considering the overall complex, the nitric acid unit is a steam producer while the ammonium nitrate unit is a steam consumer. The levels of steam pressure and sources of steam have to be selected. In the absence of other steam sources, apart from the start-up boiler, it is common practice to supply the ammonium nitrate unit with steam from the nitric acid unit and to maximise the use of internal low pressure steam produced in the ammonium nitrate neutralisation. The level of steam in the nitric acid unit is selected to maximise the efficiency of the steam turbine in the nitric acid compressor train.

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Moving gasification forward

Summary

The Gasification Technologies Council (GTC) held its 2010 workshop in July in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. Although interest has waned slightly since natural gas prices have fallen, there is still considerable enthusiasm for the technology's potential.

Abstract

GTC director James Childress looked at the growth of the industry over the past ten years; gasification capacity has seen more than a 50% increase this decade, with Asia (especially China) and Australasia leading the way, and increasing interest in Africa and the Middle East. China saw 29 plant start-ups between 2004-09. Chemical applications continue to dominate, but production of liquid fuels is increasing rapidly. Growth is set to continue at least out to 2016, with coal coming to dominate the feedstock choice. He acknowledged that the policy debate in the US needed to move forward, and urged delegates to get involved. IGCC Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) is a major area for gasification technology, and Jeff Philips of the Electric Power Research Institute provided an introduction to IGCC and an overview of current and upcoming projects. Installed generation capacity remains relatively small worldwide, with perceptions of it being unreliable; on-stream rates of 70-80% are typical. However, newer, second generation plants are seeing 90% availability, and Coffeyville’s coal to ammonia plant has actually achieved 98%.

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Banish the stack plume

Summary

M. Miggelbrink and O. Maaskant of CRI/Criterion Catalyst Co. ECS discuss how, by utilising the right technology, nitric acid facilities can avoid tensions with local communities by avoiding unsightly orange/brown stack plumes, especially during startup and shutdown operations.

Abstract

Nowadays producers are aware that they operate in an environment where authorities, unions and non-government organisations are closely watching all business activities. In addition, local communities are becoming an increasingly important stakeholder. As towns have grown over the last decades, production facilities that were once remote from any suburban area, may now find themselves directly adjacent to local communities and as such these communities have become a stakeholder which should not be neglected. Neighbours are exposed to the daily aspects of production such as noise, smell and aesthetics and a visible stack plume will not go unnoticed.
During the initial phases of a project, stakeholder mapping and subsequent engagement should be managed and executed properly. If neglected, it can lead to project upsets which can result in; extensive delays and costs, and concept rework to complete project abandonment that seemed so promising in the early project phases.

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Platinum group metals recovery

Summary

The cost of platinum group metals has a significant impact on the production cost of nitric acid plants. Johnson Matthey and R.S. Bruce discuss solutions and products to reduce the impact of these costs and to improve PGM recovery.

Abstract

The downfall in the economy and its impact on international markets over the past few years has led to increasing pressure on nitric acid plants to continually reduce the production cost per tonne of acid. One of the largest intrinsic costs to a plant after raw materials is the cost of the platinum group metals (PGM) installed and a good way to reduce the impact of these costs is to improve PGM recovery.
The two main ways to improve PGM recovery are the use of catchment gauzes and plant cleaning. Johnson Matthey alongside R.S. Bruce Ltd can offer both of these solutions as well as many other products which can reduce PGM losses such as optimised catalyst pack designs, Eco-Cat technology, and improved catalyst support to reduce mechanical losses.

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Update: Russia and Central Asia

Summary

Gas politics as well as economics have complicated the life of ammonia and other syngas-based chemical producers in central Asia, but the region remains one of the major production sites for the industry.

Abstract

The countries of central Asia lie in a gas-rich part of the world and have long been major producers of ammonia and methanol, especially Russia and Ukraine, but increasingly also in some of the other countries of the region. However, the situation has been complicated by the resource geopolitics of natural gas as Russia seeks to maintain control over former states of the Soviet empire.
Economies
The biggest story of the past two years has of course been the global financial crash and its knock-on effect on markets of all kinds, especially commodities. In 2007 the Russian government had embarked on a policy of trying to cushion itself from commodity price variations by boosting other industries, especially high technology sectors like aerospace. However, the effect of this has so far been limited, and Russia remains very dependent on oil and gas exports, and has been hit hard by the global recession. According to the World Bank, oil and gas represent roughly 20% of Russia’s GDP and 65% of its export earnings, as well as attracting one third of all foreign direct investment in the country. While it had been enjoying a sustained period of economic expansion this decade, with GDP growth rates averaging 7%, and touching 8.1% in 2007, this fell to 5.6% in 2008, and in 2009 the economy contracted by 7.9%. According to the IMF, every $1/bbl increase or decrease in the world oil price accounts for about one third of one percent of GDP growth or reduction. By the end of 2009 the economy was back to growth, and as commodity markets lift the forecast is for growth in the order of 2% for 2010.

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Centricast materials for high temperature service

Summary

The latest reformer tube materials offer improved creep rupture strength, longer tube life, improved heat transfer, reduced tube skin temperature and lower fuel consumption. Jürgen Huber and Dr Dietlinde Jakobi of Schmidt + Clemens GmbH + Co. KG discuss the development of centricast materials for high-temperature service in steam reformer furnaces.

Abstract

Steam reformer furnaces are an integral part of syngas process plants. In actual fact we could state that they are one of the costliest pieces of equipment in the plant, both in capital and maintenance cost. Reformers generally contain several hundred vertically oriented straight centrifugally cast tubes, commonly known as reformer tubes. These tubes have a significant impact on replacement cost and can be a major cause of plant unavailability, especially in the case of unexpected failures. Reformer tubes operate at severe conditions and the development in steam reformers has resulted in increasingly high operating temperatures and pressures.
While reformer tubes operate at high temperatures and internal pressures the primary cause of tube failure is creep damage (Fig. 1). However, reformer tubes are subjected to other life limiting mechanisms, such as overheating and thermal shock. This is subsequently one of the major concerns of a plant operator.

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The outlook for platinum group metals

Summary

Nitric acid production requires a platinum alloy catalyst, but the past few years have seen extreme volatility in precious metal markets. Nitrogen+Syngas looks at the markets for precious metals and the implications for nitric acid production.

Abstract

Nitric acid production is a three-stage process. Ammonia is first oxidised to nitrogen oxide (NO), and then further oxidised to nitrous oxide (NO2)/dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4), before being absorbed in water to form nitric acid (HNO3). This sequence – the Ostwald Process – has remained essentially unchanged since its discovery in 1902. The first stage of the process is carried out at 4-10 atmospheres and 700-950C, over a catalyst gauze. The gauze is typically about 90-95% platinum and 5-10% rhodium and/or palladium.
Platinum is slowly lost from the gauze during production, as it is converted to platinum oxide, which is more volatile than the elemental metal. According to Sabin Metal Corp, losses from an Ostwald catalyst are typically 0.1 – 0.4g per tonne 100% HNO3 produced during a typical production campaign, representing about 30-60% of the mass of the gauze.

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